NCTV Threat Assessment: No concrete indications of attacks – threat nevertheless conceivable
At present, there are individuals in the Netherlands who are becoming radicalised or who are already highly radicalised and pose, or could pose, a threat to national security. The jihadist movement in the Netherlands remains a key actor in this regard, as demonstrated by the various court cases and arrests, such as those that took place in Eindhoven on 23 September, within this Terrorist Threat Assessment period. At present, there are no indications that individuals in the Netherlands are preparing an attack. However, it is conceivable that an attack could be carried out. An attack carried out by right-wing extremists is likewise conceivable. Nevertheless, the current threat from jihadists and right-wing extremists has not resulted in a higher threat level. For this reason, the threat level has been maintained at 3 (on a scale of 1 to 5). These are some of the key conclusions of the 55th edition of the Terrorist Threat Assessment Netherlands, published by the National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism (NCTV).
The likelihood of a terrorist attack carried out in the Netherlands by right-wing extremists is primarily based on the involvement of young Dutch men in international, online accelerationist networks. Accelerationism is a right-wing extremist ideology that is disseminated through various – mainly private – social media platforms. Proponents of this ideology glorify and justify terrorist violence in order to accelerate a race war, the goal of which is to create chaos in society and allow the current political system to be replaced by a white (national socialist) ethnostate. A number of terrorist attacks have been committed in Western countries based on this ideology over the past three years. In the Netherlands, the followers of this ideology consist of at least a few hundred Dutch individuals between the age of 12 and 20 who spend a lot of time online on internationally fluid networks that are frequented by a few thousand participants worldwide. Relatively often, it seems to be the case that Dutch participants struggle with psychosocial problems and have a poor social safety net.
Fragmentation and commingling during protests against coronavirus measures
There have been two key types of developments in respect of protests against COVID-19 restrictions. Although the number of protests against coronavirus measures decreased in parallel with the easing of COVID-19 restrictions in June 2021, at the same time, there is a risk that certain individuals within the radical undercurrent of the movement will become even more radicalised. The threshold for online or offline discussion and committing illegal acts has become lower, and violent acts continue to take place, such as the plotting of an attack on a vaccination site in Den Helder with a firework bomb. Now that part of the protest movement against coronavirus restrictions has waned, part of the more rigid undercurrent remains.
Dutch jihadist movement
The jihadist threat against the Dutch State remains unchanged and is still considered the biggest terrorist threat in the Netherlands. At present, jihadist violence perpetrated by lone actors or small groups in the Netherlands is the most conceivable threat. In the Netherlands, the jihadist movement is socially and ideologically fragmented. Due to this division, a limited number of initiatives and security awareness, there has been hardly any mobilisation or growth of the movement. However, this does not mean that this movement does not pose a threat.
The three Terrorist Detention Units in the Netherlands currently still house dozens of suspects and convicted jihadists. This group includes a number of men who were detained for their participation in the fighting in Syria and Iraq. They are expected to be released next year. The majority can be expected not to have distanced themselves from the violent ideology espoused by ISIS even after their time in detention and to have experience with weapons, explosives and extreme violence. However, it is too early to say whether they will return to their jihadist networks after their time in detention or whether they are willing (or still willing) to commit attacks.
There are a number of developments in the field of global jihadism that are relevant to the terrorist threat assessment for the Netherlands. In recent years, ISIS has undergone a transformation, going from an organisation that was primarily focused on the fighting taking place in the heartland of Iraq and Syria to an organisation that is increasingly focused on waging a global jihad. Sub-Saharan Africa has gained significance in respect of ISIS’ global ambitions. A further strengthening of the position of groups loyal to ISIS and Al-Qaeda in sub-Saharan Africa could lead to the creation of jihadist safe havens there. The Taliban seizing power in Afghanistan may eventually strengthen the breeding ground for, and manoeuvring ability of, terrorist organisations such as Al-Qaeda. In view of the Taliban’s local ambitions, there is (as yet) no direct threat to the Netherlands.